Blog Archives for June 2014

The Uncomfortable, but Necessary Question: Should We Have Six Catholic Justices on the Court?

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
June 30, 2014

In its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the Supreme Court has decided that the religious beliefs of employers, including closely held corporations, take precedence over the rights of employees to necessary medical care. The specific medical care to which the employers objected was certain forms of contraception. The five justices who decided that these employers’ objections were entitled to deference are all Catholics. (One Catholic justice, Sotomayor—a woman—dissented from the majority ruling.)

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Alien Residue

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 30, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

Today the Supreme Court is expected to deliver its decision in the big Hobby Lobby case about an employer's ability to impose his or her religion on employees. Catch up on all the issues surrounding it at our Hobby Lobby case resource page, and stay tuned to our Twitter account for news updates and reaction. (By the way, among the groups who think Hobby Lobby is wrong is the people.)

For all the cool stuff that's been going on in the CFI community over the past fortnight, check out issue 9 of Cause & Effect

Saturday was the centennial of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which catalyzed World War I, which of course begat a century or so of violence, upheavals, realignments, and a very different world map.    

Protest the Urologists

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 27, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

Saudi Arabia's shouting down of CFI at the UN Human Rights Council is continuing to make waves, and we sent out a message yesterday about why we need your help to keep up the pressure.

Clergy Project co-founder Linda LaScola writes about her "reunion" with project alumnus Jerry DeWitt at CFI-DC. 

The Hobby Lobby decision did NOT come down yesterday (whew!), but the SCOTUS did decide that having a buffer zone at abortion clinics to protect patients from protesters was unconstitutional...

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The Ones with the Deep Voices Who Were Always Hassling Christ

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 26, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

The episode of Saudi Arabia trying to get CFI "shut up" at the UN Human Rights Council is garnering a lot of attention and interest, so I did a more complete telling of what transpired and the surrounding context over at Friendly Atheist. Additionally, we've assembled a coalition to press the US State Department to intervene.

The FDA inexplicably decides to allow "cancer quack" Stanislaw Burzynski to continue his clinical trials of his baseless treatments. Expect to hear from us on this soon. 

A one-two judicial punch takes down same-sex marriage bans in Utah and Indiana.  

I Don’t Need Science Because I Saw a Disney Movie about Bears

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 25, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

News outlet Middle East Eye reports on Saudi Arabia's attempts to keep CFI quiet about the Kingdom's human rights abuses at the UN Human Rights Council, where our main UN rep Michael De Dora says:

It doesn’t look good for Saudi Arabia. By trying to silence us, and looking a bit desperate in doing so, they have actually caused more attention to be given to the statement we were delivering.

I do a writeup at Friendly Atheist, where I note that "the work of CFI and its allies on the world stage are beginning to get under Saudi Arabia’s skin."

IHEU alerts us: Nigerian man Mubarak Bala has been detained and medicated in a psychiatric ward simply for being an atheist.

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Shiloh’s Consumption Cure

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
June 24, 2014

The word cure on an old patent-medicine bottle is an almost sure indicator of quackery. No doubt should remain when the product is touted as a cure for consumption (i.e., tuberculosis)! There were many such cures as related in the chapter “Consumption Cures” in Nostrums and Quackery, published by the American Medical Association in 1911. It is a sordid tale of the exploitation of sufferers of pulmonary tuberculosis by means of the temporary benefits of the placebo effect and a remarkable number of “treatments” and “cures,” which fall between worthless and addictive (Nostrums 1911, I: 72–169).

A Fresh Dollop of Persecution Complex

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 24, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

Saudi Arabia tries (and fails) to bully CFI's representative at the UN Human Rights Council, Josephine Macintosh, who was delivering a statement regarding Saudi Arabia's flagrant human rights abuses. Three times the Saudi representative tried to silence her, but she persisted, with support from the representatives from the U.S., Ireland, Canada, and France. Check out the video here. Canada's Ambassador Andrew Bennett tweets, "Proud that Canada defended @center4inquiry right to speak in Human Rights Council on Raif Badawi case today." 

Speaking of which, Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar is now in Canada with their children, and is helping to put pressure on Canada's government to intervene

Saudi Arabia Tries to Stop Center for Inquiry From Delivering Statement at Human Rights Council

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
June 23, 2014

This morning at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Saudi Arabia tried three times to stop the Center for Inquiry (CFI) from delivering a statement criticizing the country for its human rights violations. Ultimately, their efforts failed, and CFI was allowed to speak. 

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Religion Has No Answer for Sectarianism

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
June 23, 2014

In Iraq, we are witnessing yet again the tremendous harm caused by religious fanaticism.  One interesting aspect of the present conflict is that it largely pits Muslim against Muslim, with some fanatics in the Sunni tradition battling devoted adherents of the Shia tradition.  Both traditions, of course, rely on the Qur’an as the ultimate authoritative text.  So why the conflict? 

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Infinitely Malleable

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 23, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

Wonderful news from moments ago: Sudan's appeals court orders charges be dropped against Meriam Ibrahim and that she be released. 

CFI chief Ron Lindsay looks at the explosion of violence in Iraq, and sees religion as a root, not a solution, to the problem:

[T]he phenomenon of intra-religious strife highlights the key problem with using religious texts and doctrines to address ethical issues in general, and in particular, how we treat other human beings. All holy texts, and the doctrines derived from such texts, are infinitely malleable. Which is another way of saying that, in themselves, they are useless as ethical guides.  

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Choosing Our Targets for #TwitterTheocracy

Guest Blog from Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
June 20, 2014

Secular activists and other free speech advocates were pleased to see Twitter unlock the accounts of users who had been blocked at the request of the Pakistani government. So are we, but we also want to make clear that the problem has not by any means been solved.

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Step On it Until it’s Dead

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 20, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

Dig it, folks. Greece, NY was the town at the center of the Supreme Court public-prayer case of Greece v. Galloway, and guess who's coming to the July 15 town board meeting to give an invocation? Atheist Dan Courtney, along with CFI's Ron Lindsay at the accompanying press conferenceAP picks up the story.  

CFI-DC's Simon Davis at VICE interviews Hiba Krisht who runs the popular Tumblr blog The Ex-Hijabi Fashion Photo Journal

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9 Minutes with God

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 19, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

Nadya Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot writes in The Guardian about the fear behind Putin's tough veneer:

When the authorities have to crack down so hard for such small violations, it is hard to escape the conclusion that someone in our country is very much afraid. 

Eman Al Nafjan in the New York Times explains how Saudi Arabia is using the threat of "terrorism" as an excuse to crack down on dissent in any form. He sites some of the cases CFI has been working on, such as those of Hamza Kashgari (interviewed by our own Michael De Dora last year), Raif Badawi, and Badawi's lawyer, Waleed Abulkhair.

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Monolithically Against You

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 18, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

Oh man, did y'all see Dr. Oz on Capitol Hill yesterday? At a Senate hearing, Sen. Claire McCaskill took him to task for his myriad claims to have discovered miracle weight loss solutions (here's C-SPAN video), and really nailed it with these two statements:

The scientific community is almost monolithically against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products you called ‘miracles' ... I don't get why you need to say this stuff because you know it's not true!"

RIDDLEculous IV

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
June 17, 2014

More funny riddles with a science/critical-thinking angle.

Giveth and Taketh, Just ‘Causeth

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 17, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

How cool is this: Josh Zepps nabs veteran political analyst Howard Fineman for this week's Point of Inquiry, talking about the battles within the GOP and the power of religion in politics. 

Carrie Poppy at Skeptical Inquirer tackles the claims by PETA that dairy aggravates autism:

There are plenty of good reasons people choose to avoid animal products, from animal protection to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity to curbing climate change. But these bonus issues have the benefit of being evidence-based. Dairy, on the other hand, doesn’t cause or aggravate autism, and claiming that it does indirectly supports the same deadly pseudoscience that has created massive outbreaks of horrifying diseases. PETA would do well to retract their claim and apologize to the parents of autistic children. 

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“Reason: The Only Oracle of Man”

Access Points with Timothy Binga
June 16, 2014

This work, first published in 1785, is considered the first work critical of Christianity published in the New World, but is also considered a Deist work, and a freethought work as well. Given the fact that there was a limited run and a fire in the print shop where it was created, it is a wonder (dare I say miracle) that it survived and we are lucky to have a first edition here at CFI’s libraries.

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Hitching a Ride on Nessie

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 16, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

We at CFI pack a lot into each fortnight. Catch up with the latest edition of our newsletter, Cause & Effect.

The guy who just primary'd Eric Cantor out of a job, David Brat, turns out to be a fascinating (and troubling) guy. Michelle Boorstein profiles Brat and his approach to what he sees as theologically-correct Christian economics

This is rich: Deepak Chopra issues his own $1,000,000 challenge to James Randi and other skeptics ("any of your cronies") to explain normal experience. What? 

Evolution of the Conspiracy Theorist

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
June 13, 2014

The conspiracy theorist is, of course, not a new breed of human. All the basic psychological building blocks of conspiracy thinking are inherent in the human psyche, including distrust of authority, wanting "inside information," and real or imagined persecution-and, to be fair, often a dearth of critical thinking skills such as the ability (or desire) to separate anonymous rumor from established fact.

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Rick Perry’s Genetic Coding

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 13, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

It's a full moon -- a "honey moon," no less -- on Friday the Thirteenth, so I suppose the world will be sucked into the Bermuda Triangle, which is operated by the still-living Elvis and Hitler, both of whom are lizard people. But in honor of today, we've got some classic Skeptical Inquirer from 1985: I. W. Kelly, James Rotton, and Roger Culver with "The Moon Was Full and Nothing Happened." 

Saudi Arabia's Justice Minister, Mohammed Al-Eissa, spoke to a gathering of lawyers in DC (we don't know who they were), and made a scary defense of his country's draconian, theocratic laws...

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Spank a Plankton

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 12, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

So everything on the Internet was broken yesterday. For me, that meant Feedly, Evernote, and a handful of sites crucial to this blog were totally inaccessible. Google Apps and Facebook would break sporadically. And many of us saw what happened to TweetDeck, which affected both the official CFI account and my personal account, because I love TweetDeck and for the love of all things unholy why is there not a native TweetDeck iPad app??? Allegedly, these things are all fixed now. But it was a real pain.

Several towns in Iraq are being taken over by Islamic militants, and it's revealed that the White House has rejected pleas from the Maliki government for military assistance. 

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“Heaven Is for Real”: A Nickell-odeon Review

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
June 11, 2014

Based on the bestselling book of the same title, this is the story of a little boy, a pastor’s son, who had what is known in the parlance of paranormal claims as a “near-death experience” (NDE). That is taken as proving what the title declares, Heaven Is for Real.

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Gohmert Vociferously Gohmerting

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 11, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

Well this is fun. Thanks to a series of DDOS attacks on websites by hackers looking to extort ransom, I can't access some of my usual sources for news and links. This includes Feedly, my RSS aggregator of choice. So I'm digging around the Internet the old-fashioned way, but some of the places I often go for news simply aren't available. Please use your imagination to fill in any gaps in today's Heresy. It's what I usually do. 

Amid the online demonstrations against Pakistan's censorship of Twitter under its blasphemy laws, Pakistan blocks the petition being circulated by Ex-Muslims of North America. We made a birdDeseret News covers some of the activity.

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I Saw Goody Proctor with Slender Man!

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 10, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

CFI joins a coalition of secular groups today in a campaign to urge Pakistan to end its censorship of social media and its crackdown on religious dissent with #TwitterTheocracy. Our policy chief Michael De Dora has written a letter to the Pakistani ambassador to the UN, which has been signed by a wide array of groups.

Point of Inquiry this week features trans rights activist Janet Mock, talking to Lindsay Beyerstein about her new memoir. 

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Odd, Misanthropic, Supercilious

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 09, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

CFI's Michael De Dora comments on the unanimous Senate passage of a bill allowing for a prayer plaque at the WWII memorial, here in the Washington Post:

We thought the Senate would take the long view of this and see the policy implications of adding a Christian prayer to a World War II monument. But even more upsetting was the way it was passed. There was no floor debate, no official vote, no one went on the record regarding their position. No one was allowed to speak up and no one did speak up. 

Without naming us, yet linking to us, Mark Tooley at the American Spectator characterizes CFI and its "odd coalition" as perhaps "misanthropic" and definitely "supercilious" for our opposition

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Clap Along if You Feel Like You Are Made of Star Stuff

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 06, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

Tara Culp-Ressler at Think Progress has an excellent piece on our Keep Health Care Safe and Secular campaign:

You’ve seen the headlines: another abortion restriction approved, a record-breaking measles outbreak, a new hospital merger, a controversy over whether an individual should remain on life support. Now, a new campaign from the Center for Inquiry wants you to start connecting the dots.

Boing Boing is the second big outlet this week to highlight Carrie Poppy's Skeptical Inquirer piece on Masaru Emoto's yelling-at-water experiments. The other was Vox.

One dead and three wounded yesterday by a shooter at Seattle Pacific University, a Christian university. 

A Refuge for Privileged Eccentrics

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 05, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

The Keep Health Care Safe and Secular campaign is underway. Our boss Ron Lindsay explains the reasoning behind the campaign:

Religious interference with the delivery of health care services is a serious matter—in some cases, a deadly serious matter. By all means, getting God off our currency would be a good thing, but frankly, it’s more of a priority to get God out of our physicians’ offices and our hospitals.

Ophelia Benson calls Safe & Secular "much needed." 

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Secularism and Health Care

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
June 04, 2014

Secularism is about more than keeping religious mottoes off our coins or crèches off the courthouse steps. Secularism insists that our public polices be based on reason and evidence, not religious dogma.

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Pokemon for Simpletons

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 04, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

The Keep Health Care Safe and Secular campaign is off! Check out the great resources at the website, tell us your stories of contending with religion and pseudoscience in health care, and tweet with #SafeandSecular! Hemant says, "I can’t stress how broad this campaign is — and it needs to be. Atheists and skeptics should be concerned with any number of health care-related issues."

The Richard Dawkins Foundation picks our own Debbie Goddard as their Secular VIP of the Week! 

Iranian American comedian Negin Farsad joins Josh Zepps on Point of Inquiry to give her take on religious identification and the debates over Islam.  

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Diamond Brand (Whispered Secret) Pills

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
June 03, 2014

The red, black, and gold tin box pictured here (about 2 1/4” x 1 5/8”  x 1” high) was the product of Chichester Chemical Company of Philadelphia: Diamond Brand Pills. Nowhere on the box, however, is any indication of what the pills were expected to remedy. Indeed, each box was secured with a blue ribbon as if to keep a secret. (Note: The present box has a flange on the bottom that fastened the ends of the ribbon, which are still present.)

Some Bastard Child of Soft and Hard Science

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 03, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

Today, CFI launches a major new campaign to fight the influence of religious dogma and junk science in health care: Keep Health Care Safe and Secular. This is a big deal for us, and in a really cool way shows how the seemingly disparate humanist and skeptic sides of CFI really do come from the same place: science and reason on a foundation of compassion, for doing what's right. We've got a big new website (SafeandSecular.org) full of information and actions you can take right now, and of course, a lovely little hashtag: #SafeandSecular. We've put, and will continue to put, an enormous amount of effort into this, from all areas of CFI, so stay tuned. 

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Beats by Kurzweil

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
June 02, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

CFI sent an action alert Friday to rally support for Meriam Ibrahim, the young mother of two sentenced to death for apostasy, and spread a social media meme around to get the word out. Now it sounds like Sudan may in fact free her. Let's hope so! 

We've been up to a lot lately! Catch up with our fortnightly newsletter Cause & Effect

Great piece in The Atlantic by Emma Green looks at the entrenchment of theism in the US military, the the struggle to get atheist/humanist chaplains.